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Molnar: The Flies Invade

Our house has become a battleground. The two of us against the invading flies, worms, wooly bear caterpillars, and spiders that each fall colonize it for their own comfortable survival through the coming winter.

The flies are the advance guard, and the first sign that summer is fading. They congregate at windows, inside and out. If I try to free the hordes inside, a battalion that’s been patiently hanging outside moves in – a zero sum game. We run in and out of the house like thieves, slamming doors in double time. We’ve invested in a large number of flyswatters, have hung them prominently in every room, and have invited houseguests to enlist in the battle. As long as they’re here, it’s their war too.

After some research, I learn that these are cluster flies. They lay their eggs near earthworm burrows and emerge in late summer. The good news is that they’re not especially bad this year, according to Alan Graham, the state entomologist, and unlike the more familiar blowflies, they don’t lay their eggs in human food, and therefore present no health hazard – unless you count driving us to near suicide.

Almost as irritating as the flies are the big hairy spiders that lie in every corner in silent contemplation. They appear to be utterly useless, weaving no webs to help in the fly wars. I try to sweep them out, offering them a second chance at their inscrutable lives. But that’s when they develop an instant will, folding in on themselves, steadfastly refusing to be moved , and forcing me to rush for the hand vacuum, determined to add them to the dead hordes filling the transparent canister. For this particular housekeeping chore, I actually miss my old vacuum cleaner with its disposable bags.

Then there are the worms that plaster themselves on the patio floor waiting to dry out and die. Unlike earthworms, which have enough sense to bury themselves below the frostline, these are pathetic things, thin and anemic, and they don’t move at all. It takes a sharp instrument to dislodge them. But at least they don’t hover or scuttle.

The wooly bears are actually cute, with thick black and  brown fur. T hey turn into brilliant tiger moths, and according to folklore, they indicate the kind of winter we can expect. Some say t he wider the center stripe the milder the winter. A town in North Carolina actually holds a wooly worm festival every fall.

I’ll be the first to admit that we moved to Vermont to be closer to nature. We enjoy nearly every aspect of life here year round – hardly ever even joining in the communal whining about mud season. But I’ve never heard it said that mosquitoes or flies or slugs were part of the colorful menagerie on Noah’s ark. And still they survive, and may yet inherit the earth.

Martha L. Molnar is a public relations and freelance writer who moved to Vermont in 2008. She was formerly a New York Times reporter.
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